Picture it: 1997, a summer’s night in New Orleans. I was 16 years old, and my best friend had scored free tickets to the Essence Festival. At the time, the festival was in its toddler stages, but it quickly became known as the music event of the summer in the city. That magical night ended with my first experience seeing the amazing Maze featuring Frankie Beverly perform live on stage. I was mesmerized as the band played “Golden Time of Day” and my own personal “Flossy Posse” sang along. I always remember my first experience as being one of the best times of my life.
Over the years, I’ve attended several Essence Festivals and have had the opportunity to enjoy the artistry of performers such as Patti LaBelle, Beyoncé, Fantasia, The Roots, Jill Scott, Janelle Monáe, John Legend, Rihanna, Mary J. Blige, Solange, and many others. It is the largest celebration of African American music and culture in the United States. The city of New Orleans has been the home of Essence Fest for 24 years, except in 2006, during the recovery period after Hurricane Katrina when it was held in Houston, Texas.
This year’s Essence Festival starts on Thursday, July 5th with a Day of Service and kicks into high gear Friday, July 6th through Sunday, July 8th. The 2018 lineup includes music legends like Janet Jackson, Essence staple Mary J. Blige, and a doubleheader of Erykah Badu and Jill Scott in special curation by The Roots. On Saturday, July 7th, Queen Latifah presents Ladies First featuring Missy Elliot, Remy Ma, MC Lyte, Nikki D, and more. The main stage in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome will also feature Snoop Dogg, Fantasia, Miguel, Ledisi, Xscape, and Teddy Riley’s New Jack Swing Experience.
In addition to headliners on the main stage, four Essence Superlounges offer an ultra-chic vibe with intimate lighting, bars, and a standing room-only stage area where the sound just envelops you. The Superlounges spotlight seasoned and rookie music artists, popular DJ’s, and local New Orleans musicians that give festival-goers an extra taste of New Orleans. Also located inside the Superdome, this year’s Essence Superlounges feature artists like H.E.R., Mykia Jovan, Lloyd, Ella Mai, Kelela, Jussie Smollett, Daniel Caesar, Idris Elba, Ro James, Louis York, New Orleans legend DJ Jubilee, Mali Music, Big Freedia, DVSN, and more.
Essence is not only about the concerts; it offers a free public conference that is designed to educate, motivate, and empower. Throughout the three-day experience, Essence Festival addresses topics of wealth, technology, entrepreneurship, wellness, and spirituality in addition to experiences in food, beauty, and style through the Essence Beauty Bungalow. The conference will be held a few miles away from the Superdome at the Ernest E. Morial Convention Center and features keynote speakers, interviews, and appearances by several figures like Reverend Al Sharpton, Lena Waithe, Michael Eric Dyson, Angela Rye, Congresswoman Maxine Waters, Iyanla Vanzant, Lester Holt, Mona Scott Young, Misa Hylton, Symone D. Sanders, and more. This year’s festival also includes a 10th Anniversary All-Star Gospel Tribute honoring Dottie Peoples.
If you have never experienced the Essence Festival for yourself, you are missing out. Only at Essence Fest can you see incredible artists, actors, and influencers, and have an experience this immersed in Black Culture for as little as a $75 ticket. If that alone isn’t reason enough check it out, the historic city of New Orleans offers an experience like no other that should push you right over the edge.
Click here for more details about the 2018 Essence Fest and check out clips from 2017’s Essence Festival below.